Celeste: Not Your Muse
- Credit: Archant
Covid swept away what should’ve been a whirlwind year for Celeste, billed just 12 months ago as a new, sure-fire blues-soul sensation, scooping the double awards of BBC Sound of 2020 and the BRITS Rising Star.
But instead of gracing summer festival stages as her record climbed the charts, the 24-year-old has been biding her time while she was cleverly positioned for 2021 dominance.
How so? A Little Love was written, somewhat unromantically, for the John Lewis and Waitrose Christmas advertising campaign. Predictable schmaltz aside, it’s nonetheless been widely praised as a Christmas classic in the making. She also sings on the closing credits of Pixar’s Xmas flick Soul. And her incredible vocal will be familiar to millions as Somebody Stop This Flame is the theme to Sky Sports’ Premiere League coverage.
But all traces of cynicism evaporate in the face of Celeste’s talents: gifted with a timeless voice and effortless delivery that oozes soul – rich, powerful and inescapably magnetic – she is already a good, bordering on great, songwriter, too.
Many will be familiar with the acclaimed single Strange, its downcast strings and plangent piano backing a sorrowful, breathy delivery that matches any heartbreak ballad Adele or Amy Winehouse have committed to wax.
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At the other end of the scale, Somebody Stop This Flame builds a jumpin’, classic soul-jazz piano riff into a soaring pop stomper that’s just at home in the festival fields as the club dancefloor, and Tell Me Something I Don’t Know is an immaculately-produced slab of soul-pop, boasting bongos, brass and nifty drumbeats among layers of strings and keys.
The influence of Winehouse collaborator Mark Ronson is detectable in the soulful, peppy and charming Love Is Back, with its prominent brass, and the disco-ready Tonight Tonight.
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Celeste’s timeless appeal is arguably more evident when she dials it down and allows her voice to fill the soundstage almost unaccompanied, as on the title track where just an acoustic guitar and some treated strings eddy underneath.
The sign-off comes too soon; Some Goodbyes Come With Hellos is a gentle finger-picked ballad of assured maturity and optimism – a shot in the ear while we wait for our shot in the arm, perhaps.
Soulful, sophisticated and sassy, Celeste’s debut has felt a long time coming – but it’s been worth the wait.